A bit about the history, if you'll let me indulge for a moment. There are several conflicting stories, most unfounded as to the origin of bourbon. The most credible of legends is that a Baptist minister (by day) and distiller (by night) named Elijah Craig was the first to age his distilled liquor in charred oak barrels. However, like every other whisky story, there likely wasn't one person responsible for the creation of this whiskey, but more like an evolution of product. Distilling probably arrived with the Scottish, Irish and other European immigrants in the late 1700's. The use of maize (corn) and American Oak was likely what was available when they wanted to continue making their whisky. It evolved and by the early 19th century, the whiskey became associated with the geographical area it was being produced in: "Old Bourbon" which was partly the state of Virginia and most of eastern Kentucky (Bourbon County as we know it today).
|Henry IV - First Bourbon King of France|
|Bourbon bottle - 19th century|
The biggest myth about bourbon: It only can be made in Kentucky. Total fallacy. Mind you 97% of Bourbon Whiskies are produced near Bardstown Kentucky (population 11,000). So I can see how that one could easily be misinterpreted.
Enough about that... so why did I pick two bourbons as whisky #2 and whisky #3, well it all started in June. A fellow twitterer tweeted that he was standing in a Nova Scotia (Canadian province next to mine) liquor store and looking at a few bottles of Eagle Rare 10 year old. I immediately replied with PLEASE get me one, to which he did. This bourbon is not usually available in this area at all. I'm glad he picked a bottle for me, it was quickly sold out. Unfortunately, it took me 4 months to get to Halifax to pick it up. I was on a work trip, had the chance to sit with Bruce, talk whiskies and thanked him profusely for saving the bottle for me for such a long period of time. I bought a few more bottles while I was there that are not available home and I was content with my whisky haul. After a really crappy week in Halifax (work and weather wise), we decided to take a break and traveled to Lunenburg (about an hour away and heaven!) That night, we ate at our favorite restaurant (http://www.novascotiablogs.com/2010/10/rhubarb-relish---pickles-and.html). They make the absolute best Creole Peanut Soup or if you like something more "maritime'ish" fish cakes with rhubarb chutney.
Oh but I digress (even if the food is truly that amazing!), later on that evening we decided to open the Eagle Rare. I was so excited! And then, I tasted it. I didn't like it. Not one bit. How dissapointing. So Graham said, let's open the other one. I was skeptical after the first one, but like every good adventure, it's no fun if you say no to everything that comes your way. So, we opened the Woodford Reserve and then I said ahhhhh! Round one, Woodford Reserve lands solid right swing to chin, down goes Eagle Rare. After discussing what we thought and of course the differences we were noticing between the two whiskeys, our glasses were empty. I really felt gyped as far as having spent almost $50 for a bourbon I didn't even like. The Woodford's on the other hand was only $40. Round two to Woodford's as well.
A few weeks later when I was home watching the New England Patriots (yes I LOVE American football, my apologies to the "real footie watchers). And I decided to give Eagle Rare a second chance. I poured myself a dram and added water. Nope, still didn't like the taste of this bourbon at all? So then I added one ice cube and finally... found a way I can enjoy this bourbon. Eagle Rare on ice is quite delightful. Then again, I found out last night, that Woodford's ALSO tastes really good with ice. More-so than Eagle Rare. Round three, Woodford Reserve. Then when I started doing a bit of research I found out that Eagle Rare in the US is available in some cases for as low as 16$. I PAID $50!?? TKO for Woodford.
EAGLE RARE SINGLE BARREL, 10 YEAR OLD, 45% ABV
Color: Not a very viscous whiskey and legs were plentiful but very skinny. It is a beautiful honey gold, it reminds me of my topaz ring.
Nose: Char, rancid nuts, lots of vanilla on the nose. A bit of spice, but nothing to write home about. I also get the feeling I'm smelling a tomato plant?
Palate: So oily... Left a film in my mouth. Very distinct oakiness to it. The rancid nuts are back but they are "pralined", really sweet.
Finish: What finish? It was so short I don't think I got to taste it. Slightly burny and fairly thin? I was quite surprised and as stated disappointed.
Overall from start to finish, this is not a complex bourbon at all. From what I've since read about it, alot of people say things like: It's a good bourbon for the price range. Well, if I had paid $25 instead of $50, I might agree. But for now, it's a basement bourbon that I might use to cook with, or maybe from time to time I might drink with a few ice cubes on a hot summer night.
WOODFORD RESERVE, DISTILLER'S SELECT, 45.2% ABV
Color: Again not a very viscous whisky in the glass, and the legs are skinny and plentiful. The color is almost a rich amber.
Nose: This one is a bit more earthy in nature and nice clear sweet smell of vanilla. I can detect a faint smell of citrus at the back. Quite floral once it sits for while and opens and when I added a bit of water, I could smell a bit of cocoa.
Palate: Nice pepper feel, very mouthwatering. A minted toffee if that's all at possible. Two flavors that came to me almost immediately. A bit of water brought out leather.
Finish: Very smooth, medium to long and the sweetness of the bourbon stayed with me for some time. Not much peppery on this one. Can tell it's a nice balanced whiskey.
So, hands down the Woodford beat the crap out of Eagle Rare. No matter how I try to put it, Eagle Rare will not be a whiskey I would buy again. Would I recommend it? It's fairly weak and not very complex so, if you can get it on the cheap or if someone gives you a bottle, have at her. Would I suggest you seek it out? Nope. Not if you are looking for a "traditional" tasting bourbon. I can think of at least 3 other bourbons I would recommend for that kind of dollar value.
Woodford, I have since enjoyed several times since we've purchased the bottle. It's delicious with barb-b-cued meats, on its own or with ice as a sipping whiskey. Bourbon worth the $40, yes definitely. I would recommend this to anyone looking to add a good bourbon in their collection that costs less then 50 dollars.
So there you have it, it wasn't much of a fight and the Eagle Rare ended up being a very poor contender against Woodford's. Hope you enjoyed our little jaunt into the world of bourbons, onward and upward.
See you on Day 3, we head across the Atlantic Ocean for some more whisky adventures and mischief.
Canadian Whisky Lassie